Comics of the week reviewed for 22 August (Wired UK)

Having taken over movies, television and
animation, comics have never been cooler. Now, Wired.co.uk picks
out the best and worst of the week’s titles for your reading
pleasure.

This week, writer Grant Morrison begins to chart DC’s multiverse
in The Multiversity #1, one of the earliest comic strip
characters of all time gets a loving update in Little Nemo:
Return to Slumberland #1
, and Marvel defies industry
convention with a shocking twist in Original Sins #5.


The Multiversity
#1
The Multiversity
#1

A very strange journey across worlds begins in
this week’s long-awaited Multiversity

© 2014 DC Comics


The Multiversity #1, DC Comics

When it comes to long-awaited comics, few can compare to Grant
Morrison’s The Multiversity. First announced over five
years ago in the wake of DC’s Final Crisis
event, it’s been in the works so long that the publisher has been
through another universe-wide continuity reboot. Morrison’s writing
at DC has always stood on its own though, almost creating an
elevated meta-continuity that transcends whatever house rules are
currently in place. Even as far back as his earliest work on Animal Man in the late 1980s, he layered in elements from
previous continuities, treating all of comics fiction as one
living, breathing entity.

That’s the central hook here, with Ultra Comics, a
comic-within-the-comic, warning the reader, and therefore us, of a
universe-crushing threat travelling from reality to reality. Nix
Uotan, the last of the Monitors (DC’s overseers of the multiverse),
hunts the mysterious force across universes, aided by a chimpanzee
pirate named Mr Stubbs. On Earth 7, populated by loose analogues of
Marvel’s heroes, Uotan is trapped, prompting his real-world
counterpart to awake in a cold sweat. Elsewhere, the Superman of
Earth 23, President Calvin Ellis, is pulled to the Orrery of
Worlds, a space outside of the multiversal superstructure, to join
a gathering of extradimensional heroes mounting an effort to save
Uotan.

In short, this is a staggeringly complex issue, one relying on
readers’ understanding of comics as an artform and the traditions
and possibilities inherent in it. There are none of the familiar DC
heroes serving as access to the story, only their alternate Earth
counterparts, and Morrison’s high-concept ideas can take a while to
wrap your head around. Conversely, it’s fantastic to read a
superhero comic that pushes its readership to understand these
kinds of mind-altering ideas. Morrison peppers the book with
rapid-fire ideas, often left without explanation or simply stated
as if they’re perfectly natural concepts, such as the fiction of
one world being the reality of another (a concept dating back to
the introduction of Barry Allen as the Flash in 1956, who had read
the comics of his predecessor Jay Garrick and later met him in a
cross-universe team up), or the Monitors possessing vessels made of
solid music.

Yet in the midst of this… madness… there are still emotional
beats and strong character moments. Red Racer and Power Torch,
alternates for Flash and Green Lantern, are subtly shown to be
lovers; Aquawoman’s aggressive personality becomes
powerfully clear; Captain Carrot (actually a classic
character
, here revamped to sit somewhere between Superman and
Roger Rabbit) proves endearingly optimistic. It’s a lesson in deft
characterisation on Morrison’s part.

Penciller Ivan Reis, with inks by Joe Prado, gets in on the
metatextualisation, playing with comics as a format as the
universes crumble. Perspective collapses as the forces Uotan is
trying to rally against metastasise across dimensions, which
provides a striking contrast against the heroic figures. The
artists also make the diverse and expansive cast distinct, with
even brand new characters clearly reminding readers who they’re
based on.

Has Multiversity been worth the wait? It’s honestly
hard to say yet. There’s so much going on that you could easily
pore over each page to discern hidden meaning or arcane references
to comics minutia, and with the issue kicking off a
trans-dimensional jaunt across alternate Earths, it’s only going to
get more intricate. However, Morrison’s writing often reads much
better in the whole than in part, and with the event promising to
explore and perhaps define DC’s multiverse for a new age, it’s not
to be missed.


Little Nemo: Return to
Slumberland #1
Little Nemo: Return to
Slumberland #1

Shanower and Rodriguez create a
compelling new dreamscape for the Winsor McKay’s timeless
character

© 2014 Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Idea
and Design Works, LLC


Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1, IDW
Publishing

Winsor
McCay’s
Little Nemo in Slumberland is one of the great
comics of the 20th century. First running in the New York
Herald
in 1905, McCay’s Sunday strip was decades ahead of its
time in its use of colour and abstract panel layout, while the
whimsy and charm of the stories — which saw Nemo embark on
adventures with the Princess of Slumberland and other fanciful
characters – won fans around the world.

Eric Shanower, who has previously adapted many of L. Frank
Baum’s Land of Oz novels for Marvel, perfectly captures
the essence of McCay’s stories in this modern updating, with a new
Nemo summoned into the dreamworld to be the Princess’ latest
playmate. The fact this boy — who prefers his given name James to
his middle name Nemo — is reluctant to even visit adds a nice
twist though, making it feel like more than a redux of 110-year-old
material. Despite the shift in format, to a 20-page issue rather
than oversized weekly newspaper comics, Shanower builds a story
that feels like a collection of shorts forming a greater whole,
with Nemo drawn into numerous dreams over successive nights before
ever reaching the gates of Slumberland.

Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is astounding, presenting brilliantly
weird vistas of cloud kingdoms and three-tongued monsters in
chocolate rivers, and a stunningly detailed vision of Slumberland’s
capital when we finally arrive. Although his panel layout starts in
a conventional grid format, as Nemo’s dreams become more bizarre,
Rodriguez becomes increasingly experimental, with artwork looping
between frames and panels shifting in size and orientation.

The issue also packs in some marvellous bonus content, with a
look at Rodrigeuz’s original pencil work, extracts from Shanower’s
script, and a handful of essays providing background information on
McKay’s classic strip. This modern day Nemo may be different, but
the world presented in this opening issue is one we can’t wait to
return to.


Original Sins
#5
Original Sins
#5

A rarity occurs in this issue – a truly shocking
character death.

© 2014 Marvel Characters Inc


Original Sins #5, Marvel

Marvel has run companion mini-series to its event storylines for
years, at least as far back as the Front Line story
accompanying 2006’s Civil
War
. Usually, they add finer detail to the big story, show
what supporting characters are doing, that sort of thing. This tie
in to the main Original Sin story had been doing just
that, with half of each issue following a handful of the Young
Avengers battling crime lord-turned-demon The Hood, with the other
half given over to spotlight stories of various heroes or villains
affected by the sudden reveal of some of the Marvel Universe’s
darkest secrets. We expected the same for this final issue, but
instead we get a massive reveal impacting decades of Marvel
history.

The Young Avengers half gets a fairly rapid conclusion, with
writer Ryan North providing appropriately glib dialogue for the
teen superheroes, an easy “villain escapes” battle, and an epilogue
that could have importance if anyone else decides to pick up the
story thread. Ramon Villalobos’ art remains unfortunately grubby
here though, with an odd mix of excessive detail and overly heavy
inking making everyone look slightly monstrous.

Of far greater importance is the half focussing on Nick Fury –
the original one, recently revealed to have been a secret cosmic
assassin protecting Earth from threats no-one else knew of. Here,
Al Ewing, with art by Butch Guice and Scott Hanna, the team doesn’t
just kill off a key figure in Marvel’s spy organisation SHIELD but
they do it retroactively, and in such permanent fashion that it
would be nigh impossible — even accounting for the rotating door
of death in comics — to believably undo. It’s the sort of story
that may anger long time readers, but delivers a rare genuine
surprise that they will never have seen coming. A hilarious
two-page back up, written and drawn by Sex Criminals
artist Chip Zdarsky, may take some of the sting out of the issue’s
revelations. However, the sheer balls of the story, and the fact it
happened in this side-series where no-one expected big changes to
happen, will leave you mildly stunned.

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22 August 2014 | 12:27 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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